Out of Sundaland — PERMANENTLY CLOSED
Thornbury's more casual, less expensive answer to Chin Chin.
Out of Sundaland doesn't sound like the name of your typical pan-Asian restaurant, but then, nothing much about this restaurant is typical. You might not get that vibe from the street, though; Out of Sundaland looks like most other restaurants on Thornbury's High Street, where it sits just a few doors up from Pallino and a few doors down from Umberto Espresso. But push through the unassuming front door and you'll enter a world of high-flying flavours and techniques in a space handmade by owners Kasi Metcalfe and Nathan Richardson, who welcome you with such warmth it's like they personally invited you to a dinner party.
While there are a few stools up at the window, most of the seating is on the mezzanine. This pocket of the restaurant is fun, colourful and surprisingly cosy, with a mint green feature wall covered in paintings and patterns (and one particularly remarkable statue of a gold T. rex) and exposed bricks dotted with hanging plants and an art deco mirror that glows purple. The music matches the decor — one minute they're playing Frank Ocean, the next Elton John, the next A Tribe Called Quest. Banquette seating means you can come with a small group of friends, your significant other or just by yourself. This place was made for a good time, no matter your company.
That good time will be confirmed when you look at the drinks menu. There are signature cocktails that play with Asian flavours, like the Sundaland Sour Spritz ($15), which kicks Aperol to the curb by replacing it with ginger liqueur and a shiso shrub (an infused vinegar) for a sweet, spicy and altogether delicious concoction. There's also a rotating beer selection and a solid wine list that can be paired with the food.
Chef Rohan Brophy used to run the kitchen at Coda, and you can see that influence on the short, deliberate and ever-changing menu, which has a few starters, a few mains and a few sides. The best way to do it is to pick a few to share. The crispy eggplant ($8) is one of the former, and has been brined for hours before being deep-fried in a light tempura batter and topped with a green curry sauce. You'll dream about the crunch of the tempura, the oozing umami of the soft and melty eggplant, the creamy spice of the green curry sauce topped with garlic chips and crispy shallots. The kung pao cauliflower ($8) is another starter, the cauliflower rising from a bed of kung pao sauce like a delicious fried mountain, and laden with the extra kapow of Sichuan peppers. It's hard to even describe the massaman beef cheek curry with roti ($27), a larger dish which has a sauce so rich Mark Zuckerberg would be jealous.
This is as close to Chin Chin, Tonka and Longrain as you'll get on High Street — and for a fraction of the price, no less. The only thing typical you'll wish they had was a dessert menu, but you'll just have to settle for another spritz instead.